When it comes to developing an estate plan, married couples that live in North Carolina will need to pay attention to some key issues. Though all estate plans address the same basic principles, married couples will need to approach these topics from a slightly different perspective than single people. Knowing what you will need to think about as you create your estate plan before you begin the process can help you ensure that your plan will meet all of your needs.
Married Couple Estate Planning Issue 1. Inheritances
People who create estate plans can make almost any inheritance decisions they like, with one key exception. Namely, you cannot disinherit a spouse. Though you are under no legal obligation to leave inheritances to any other family member, your spouse is automatically entitled to receive a portion of your estate upon your death.
Nevertheless, there are some situations in which married couples might not want to leave inheritances to one another. If, for example, you are sure that both you and your spouse will be taken care of should the other die, you might not feel the need to receive an inheritance from one another. In such situation you might choose to agree to refuse to accept inheritances from each.
Married Couple Estate Planning Issue 2. Incapacitation
When a spouse becomes incapacitated, it typically falls to the other spouse to make decisions on the incapacitated spouse’s behalf. However, it is nevertheless important for married couples to make incapacity plans because of the very real possibility that their spouse might not be able to make decisions on their behalf. If, for example, you and your spouse are severely injured in an accident, neither will have the ability to make decisions on the other’s behalf.
Further, you might not want your spouse to make certain types of decisions for you. For example, you might want a sibling or other close friend or relative to make medical decisions on your behalf if you have a terminal illness because leaving such a decision up your spouse might not be something you want to do.
Married Couple Estate Planning Issue 3. Communication
Even though you are married, each spouse has the legal right to make his or her own estate planning choices. The choices you want to make might be very different than the choice your spouse might want to make. Talking about your choices before making any final decision is vital if you want to develop an estate plan as a married couple. Disagreements that arise during the planning process can be costly and damaging. Discussing your choices and being comfortable with your decisions is essential if you want to make a plan as a couple.